Tag Archives: Chocolate

Chocolate + Tahini

6 Feb
Photo by: Jonelle Weaver

Photo by: Jonelle Weaver

I was among the first to make ganache from chocolate and tahini (instead of cream) and invented a recipe in 1999 for a Gourmet magazine cover story.  I created a chocolate petits fours for a kosher-style meal where the mixing of meat and dairy was not allowed.  This idea is now a hot new trend and lots of chefs are exploiting tahini (sesame seed paste) to the max.  Here’s my recipe from Gourmet for Chocolate-Tahini Cups.  They are radically simple to make and taste like a sophisticated Chunky bar.  A great idea for Valentine’s Day.

Chocolate-Tahini Cups
1/2 cup dried currants
1 cup boiling-hot water
8 ounces best quality semi-sweet chocolate (like Valrhona)
3-1/2 tablespoons tahini (Middle Eastern sesame seed paste)
vegetable cooking spray
18 – 1-inch candy papers/liners

Soak currants in hot water for 5 minutes.  Drain and pat dry with paper towels.  Melt chocolate with 3 tablespoon tahini in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring until smooth, and stir in currants.  Lightly spray liners with cooking spray and spoon chocolate mixture into candy paper liners.  Cool 5 minutes. Decorate candies by dipping tip of a skewer or toothpick into remaining 1/2 tablespoon tahini and swirling over tops.  Chill until set.  Makes 18.  Will keep, covered and chilled, for 1 week. 

Super Bowl Recipe Countdown (Day 5)

1 Feb

chocolate chiliChocolate Chili with Cauliflower Popcorn
From Eat Fresh Food: Awesome Recipes For Teen Chefs (Bloomsbury, 2009)

This delicious vegetarian chili is made dark and mysterious with a touch of semisweet chocolate and cinnamon. Chocolate and cinnamon are used together in several Mexican dishes. Small roasted florets of white cauliflower turn a simple idea into something that looks really dramatic.

½ pound dried black beans
2 large garlic cloves
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups finely chopped onions
1 ½ tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried oregano leaves
28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1½ ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 large cauliflower
¼ cup chopped cilantro or parsley

1. Put the beans in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Drain the beans in a colander.

2. Peel the garlic and finely chop. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a 4-quart pot. Add the garlic and onions and cook over medium-high heat for 10 minutes until soft. Add the chili powder, cumin, oregano, and 1teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes until fragrant. Stir in the tomatoes, drained beans, cinnamon, and 5 cups water. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover the pot, and simmer for 1½ hours, stirring often. Add the chocolate and stir until melted. Cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes until thick.

3. About 40 minutes before serving, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the cauliflower into ½-inch florets. Put in a bowl and toss with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and salt to taste. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 35 minutes until golden. Shake the pan often during baking to prevent sticking. Remove from the oven. Ladle chili into bowls and top with “popcorn” and herbs.

Wines for Valentines

12 Feb

wineWhoever came up with that catchy phrase about ‘the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach’ was mostly right. Add wine into the mix and you’ve really got it made. This is especially true when sipping these spectacular wines that come from premiere producers with stellar pedigrees. This fabulous list, made exclusively for me for you, was created by Carol Berman, founder of Class in a Glass and Take Home Sommelier. I’ve known her for years and have always trusted her smart picks. Romance begins at the table. Where it ends, you decide.
SPARKLING
CA’DEL BOSCO, PRESTIGE BRUT, FRANCIACORTA, LOMBARDY, ITALY
Franciacorta wines are going to be the next big trend in the sparkling category. This amazing, elegant blend of Pinot Bianco and Chardonnay will make your heart beat faster! Average retail price $35.00

RAVENTOS I BLANC, BRUT ROSE ‘DE NIT’, CAVA, PENEDES, SPAIN
Romantically pink and quite gregarious! It seduces sip-by-sip. Average retail price $23.00

WHITE
CANTINA TERLAN, PINOT BIANCO RISERVA, VORBERG, ALTO ADIGE, ITALY, 2009
Voluptuous and insouciant. Average retail price $24.00

RED
J.L.CHAVE, CÔTES DU RHONE, MON COEUR, 2010, FRANCE
From one of the most masterful wine makers in the Rhone region, Chave’s seductive, gripping blend of Syrah and Grenache, Mon Coeur is appropriately named (my heart). Average retail price: $22.00

DESSERT
ALBA VINEYARD, RED RASPBERRY DESSERT WINE, MILFORD, NJ
Valentine red in color and enticingly sweet, tart and lively! Average retail price: $16.99 (375ml)

***

And here’s a Valentine from me: A recipe for Insanely Simple Chocolate Mousse. Adapted from my book, Cooking 1-2-3, it is virtually fool proof, and good for fools in love.

Insanely Simple Chocolate Mousse

10 ounces best-quality semisweet chocolate
1/4 cup brewed espresso, at room temperature
5 extra-large egg whites

Chop chocolate into small pieces. Put in a heavy saucepan with espresso. Over very low heat, melt chocolate, stirring constantly until smooth; cool slightly. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat egg whites until stiff. Slowly add the slightly warm chocolate mixture, beating on low for a moment, then folding gently with a flexible rubber spatula until thoroughly incorporated. The whites will deflate dramatically but the mixture will become smooth and creamy. Do not over-mix. Spoon mousse into four wine glasses. Refrigerate several hours before serving. Serves 4

Speaking of Gelato

25 Aug

I saw an ad in the cab for the TV show Jeopardy yesterday with one of the questions relating to the origin of gelato — the Italian frozen confection that I tasted for the first time in 1973 on my maiden voyage to Italy.  It said that the first gelato was fashioned from honey and shaved ices, but that idea is so reductive as to be suspect. For your reading pleasure, you may google the history of gelato and ponder the various theories, but what I’m pondering these days is why gelato isn’t the way I remember.  We were on a bit of a quest for great gelato on our recent trip to Italy and experienced two extremes.  One of the gelatos we tried was commercial and sported neon colors of fruit flavors that one never encounters in nature, yet it had the sweet, dense, velvety texture I remembered.  The other gelato (the shop with the longest line in Naples) was “artiginale” and tasted so rich and creamy that it crossed the boundaries of gelato into premium rich, custardy ice cream.  I longed for the gelato that I once had in Sicily for breakfast, spooned into a morning brioche, and another that I had when I was a young lass in Florence studying cooking with Guiliano Bugialli.  It had tasted like nothing I ever had — as memorable as my first sip of Chateau d’Yquem.   I remember the intensity of the fruit flavor, the bracing yet soft chill, the velvety, but slightly elastic mouthfeel.  It was probably the first time I experienced the taste of gianduja, too — the brilliant marriage of hazelnut and chocolate.

Just this week, I treated myself to a romp around the West Village (I just adore Bleeker Street these days — the whole stretch, actually, from east to west) and found two very credible gelato palaces.  I will mention my favorite only.  Grom, located on the corner of Bleeker and Carmine, exceeded expectations.  Never mind that the adorable boy working behind the counter was from Venice and charming as all get out, and that he topped my cup of gelato with a bit more when I said it looked skimpy (I was hungry!), but he recommended two varieties that tasted like magic together.  One was their very robust espresso gelato and the other their “specialty” — crema di Grom, made with cream, “corn biscuits” from the Langhe region and bits of shaved Teyuna chocolate from Columbia.  I also sampled their cassata (with bits of candied fruit) and their white fig gelato, which was divine.   Sitting outside at a little cafe table, with the sun shining brightly through my plastic gelato spoon, and Italian spoken all around me, I must say that my trip to Italy had a delightful hiccup.  Sad that Faicco’s (the legendary pork store) was closed that day, I had a strange hankering for mortadella and buffalo mozzarella.

I don’t know how to make gelato and so instead I offer you another kind of intense, velvety frozen confection from Radically Simple — with a similiar mouthfeel and memorable flavor.

Chocolate-Chipotle Sorbetto
A bit of chipotle smolders behind a chocolate chill.  It’s very cool to serve a scoop of this in a glass with some cold milk poured around it.  Taste the mixture before you churn it — you might want to add a bit more chipotle and salt to augment the smoky flavor.

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup dark corn syrup
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1/8 teaspoon ground chipotle powder

Combine the sugar, corn syrup, cocoa powder and 1-1/2 cups water in a large saucepan.  Whisk until smooth and bring to a boil.  Boil 1 minute, whisking.  Remove from the heat.  Stir in the chocolate, chipotle powder, 1/4 cup water and a large pinch of salt.  Stir until the chocoalte melts.  Pour the mixture into a blender and process 1 minute, until smooth.  Refrigerate the mixture until very cold.  Stir briskly and freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.  Serves 6

Chocolate Eggplant

23 Aug

Chocolate Eggplant at Trattoria dei Cartari

About one month ago, while perched atop the Amalfi coast nestled in a friend’s villa in Ravello, the conversation about chocolate eggplant ensued.  Our hosts, the consummate foodies, told us about a particular trattoria in Amalfi that served chocolate eggplant for dessert. But our friend couldn’t remember the name of the place nor did she know that some version of this unique dessert is famous, or typical, in that area — especially in spring and summer.  Knowing our friend’s taste for the discreet, we ambled along the main street of Amalfi (after sampling a cannoli at the well-known pasticceria Pansa), asking everyone where we could find it.  No one seemed to know.  That is, until we got to the Macelleria and inquired.  “Next door!,” the affable butcher said. “They have it at the nice trattoria next door but they don’t open until 6 p.m.” We waited.

While my husband loved his main course of butterflied sardines, that were lightly battered and sauteed (including a gossamer layer of cheese to hold them together), I devoured my dish of grilled provola in lemon leaves (another dish typical of the area) at the lovely Trattoria dei Cartari.  But I longed for the eggplant.  It arrived and certainly stole the attention of the two children sitting next to us.  For awash in a sea of dark molten chocolate strewn with pine nuts, were two thin slices of shapely eggplant, fried twice (as the waiter told us).  The eggplant had a texture that tasted almost like thick moist apricot leather, and I couldn’t figure out how it was done.  I must say that it was very, very good!  The slight bitterness of the eggplant played against the flavor of the not-too-sweet chocolate, accented with toasty notes of almonds.  It was worth searching for and yes, it was the place our friend frequented.  The next day, not fully satisfied that I understood the concept, we went to the shop of the most famous pastry chef of the Amalfi coast — Salvatore di Riso (Sal for short).  There, the chocolate eggplant was interpreted into a fudgey square of layered eggplant, thick chocolate (ganache-like) and candied fruit, flavored with liqueur (probably Concerto, a liqueur popular in that region), and served icy cold.   While festive and interesting, I preferred the simple, warm, almost earthy version we had in Amalfi.  However improbable it was, it was delicious.

I have not prepared the recipe I offer below, but searched for one that most closely approximated the dish we liked.   A recipe for Sal di Riso’s “Melanzane al Cioccolato” can be found at www.francinesegan.com.

Chocolate Eggplant (courtesy of the Canadian Food Network)

2 eggplants, thinly sliced lengthwise
coarse sea salt
flour for dredging
olive oil, for deep-frying
16 ounces bittersweet chocolate, in small pieces
1 cup milk
1/2 cup toasted almonds, chopped

Prep the eggplant by salting the slices and laying them in a colander for 30 minutes.  Rinse and pat very dry.  Dredge eggplant into the flour and fry in olive oil set at 375 degrees. Do not fry too many pieces at one time (it will lower the cooking temperature.)  Lay on paper towels to absorb oil.  (Note by RG:  you might want to fry it again to best approximate the texture we experienced in Italy.  You may also use lightly toasted pine nuts instead of the almonds.)  Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pot of simmering water until smooth.  Whisk in enough milk to make it creamy but still rather thick.   Pour over the eggplant and sprinkle nuts on top.   Let sit at room temperature or serve slightly warm.  Serves 6 or more.

Chocolate Oblivion with Sun-Dried Cherries

14 Feb

As promised, here it is.  A romantic dinner for two, or four, (and 10 for dessert!) with all the recipes posted to date. (Feb. 12, 13, 14th.) This is one title that says it all:  A single bite will distract you from anything else going on at the table.  Somewhere between a chocolate truffle and chocolate mousse, your fork glides through it effortlessly.  The cake is baked in a water bath which helps give it its unusual texture.  Use a great-quality chocolate, one from Valrhona, perhaps, not unsweetened, and not semisweet, but one with a slightly bitter edge, around 70%.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Chocolate Oblivion with Sun-Dried Cherries
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 sticks unsalted butter
7 extra-large eggs
1 scant cup sugar (7/8 cup)
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup unsweetened dried cherries

Chop chocolate and butter into pieces.  Place in a heavy saucepan over very low heat until chocolate and butter melt.  Stir occasionally so that the mixture is completely smooth.  Break eggs into bowl of electric mixer.  Beat on high with sugar, almond extract and a pinch of salt.  Beat for several minutes until slightly thickened.  Using a flexible rubber spatula, add melted chocolate to eggs and beat briefly until ingredients are just incorporated.  Butter a 9-x-2 inch round cake pan.  Line with a circle of parchment paper.  Pour batter into pan and smooth on top.  Scatter evenly with dried cherries, cutting them in half if they are large.  Cover pan tightly with foil.  Place pan in a larger pan to make a water bath.  Pour boiling water half-way up the sides of the cake pan.  Bake 1 hour and 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven.  Remove cake pan from water bath.  Remove foil (the center will still be soft.)  Let cool.  Serves 10 to 12

Change of Plans

3 Nov

Life is what happens when you’re making other plans, right?  And so my little dinner party last night never happened.  My star guest was feeling very under the weather and begged for another invite.  No problem. Instead, Bob (the one writing Julia Child’s biography) and I decided to attend the book launch at Chelsea Market for Amanda Hesser, Melissa Clark and Dorie Greenspan.  Three women I admire tremendously.  I am close friends with Dorie whose new book Around My French Table is a gem.  Ditto Melissa Clark’s charming new book and Amanda’s awesomely updated New York Times Cookbook.  All three divas signed their books and Dorie made cookies to give away.

The event was a “charity do” with proceeds going to the impressive “Wellness in the Schools” program.   Lots of chefs were there to not only lend support but to ply with us with some tasty offerings — we loved the pizza from Frankie’s 347 — made with puntarelle, anchovy and lemon.  And the pickled devilled eggs from Gramercy were interesting as well — sour, salty and sweet.  Delicious yogurt-coated lamb meatballs, too. Saw lots of food friends — Molly O’Neill, Florence Fabricant, Bill Telepan, and chef Michael Anthony from Gramercy.  Hundreds of young passionate foodies as well — drinking beer and egg creams from Russ & Daughters — vigorously stirred by Nicki — the beautiful proprietress of the famed appetizing store.  No wine though — so Bob and I bought a bottle of Cotes du Rhone at the Chelsea Wine Vault next door and divvied it out to anyone who was in need — like us.

So who ate the “opinionated way to roast a chicken” and the Moroccan-inspired carrot puree?  My husband and daughter, naturally.  She also enjoyed the Valrhona chocolate bar from the goody bag I brought home.

And speaking of chocolate…

Want to try a fascinating flavor combo?  Try this one from Radically Simple


Chocolate, Parmigiano-Reggiano & Red Grapes

I use this tasting plate as a “pre-dessert.”  It stimulates conversation as well as your brain.  Use 62 percent semisweet chocolate.  Tasted with the grapes, the chocolate takes on cherry overtones; with the cheese, it finds a soul mate, and the cheese brings out wine-y notes in the chocolate.

4-ounce piece Parmigiano-Reggiano
4-ounce bar 62% top-quality semisweet chocolate
4 small clumps red seedless grapes

Arrange 1 ounce of cheese and 1 ounce chocolate on each of 4 plates; add grapes.  Serves 4

 

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